As the NFL off-season nears free agency and the draft, all eyes are on what the New York Jets will do with their wealth. Consisting of a projected $93 million in cap space, as well as the number three overall pick in the draft, the Jets must use their riches to find impact players. Assuming the acquisition of Gregg Williams leads to the return of the base 4-3 defense, the Jets have quite a few holes to fill this off-season. The team can address these positions in a way that ensures they fill the most possible.
Ways to Address the New York Jets Biggest Needs in the 2019 Off-Season
There is a good reason that many feel the Jets biggest need at the moment is a quality edge rusher. Jordan Jenkins and Henry Anderson led the team in sacks in 2018 with seven each. While this is respectable production, it is hardly that of an upper tier pass rusher. Gaining a viable threat on the edge will not only help to disrupt opposing offenses but should help to free up the interior for guys like Leonard Williams to shine. The 2019 edge rusher free agency class is loaded with talent and the Jets would be wise to address the position here.
Operating under the assumption that Demarcus Lawrence and Jadeveon Clowney are both back with their respective teams in 2019, two intriguing options exist on the market. One is Seattle Seahawks defensive end, Frank Clark. Clark recorded an impressive 13 sacks in 2018. At only 25 years old, Clark is also just entering the prime of his career. Expected to demand an annual market value of $12 million annually according to Spotrac, Clark would also be relatively affordable for the position.
Another intriguing option the team is likely to explore is current New England Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers. Flowers is expected to be a bit pricier than Clark, but his game is extremely well-rounded. Recording 7.5 sacks in 2018, Flowers has room to grow as a pass rusher. However, he is also effective against the run and would rarely come off the field for Gang Green.
Both options would provide respectable edge threats, but Frank Clark would appear the more appealing one. His pass rushing production, age, and expected market value would make him a smart, high upside signing for Mike Maccagnan and the Jets.
Filling the hole at running back should be the one with the least ambiguity for the Jets brass. The 2019 draft lacks a can’t-miss Saquon Barkley type, and current reports suggest the team will not pursue Kareem Hunt. That leaves Pittsburgh Steelers running back LeVeon Bell as the clear top option. Bell is one of the league’s premier three-down backs, boasting one of the best receiving resumes in the entire league. He will demand a hefty paycheck, but the team can use the emergence of James Conner as a bargaining tool. Regardless, the team has the money to land one of the league’s premier playmakers. This would elevate the entire offense, and provide quarterback Sam Darnold an impressive safety net.
In the event the team decides not to pay up for Bell’s services, two other free agent options could help boost the offense. Tevin Coleman of the Atlanta Falcons has proven a big play threat and would be much cheaper than Bell.
Having holes across the entire line, it is hard to pinpoint exactly where the team should attack in order to help protect Sam Darnold. Kelvin Beachum has been an average left tackle, but acquiring an anchor for Darnold’s blindside would certainly be beneficial. One of the best options to achieve this could come from drafting Alabama’s Jonah Williams. There are reports that some scouts would kick Williams inside, but I view his game as having traits to excel as an NFL tackle. If he can develop into a high-quality starter, Darnold would be able to spend his career with the luxury of a franchise left tackle.
To address issues on the interior of the line, Denver Broncos center Matt Paradis is an attractive option. Set to be a free agent, Paradis was rated as the number two center in the NFL in 2018 by Pro Football Focus. The team signed center Spencer Long last off-season, but his struggles snapping the ball could prompt the team to look elsewhere. Long also played his best ball all season as a guard and could remain there if the team decides to keep him on board.
After signing Quincy Enunwa to an extension, and retaining rights to Robby Anderson for another season, the team should invest heavily in adding a number one receiver this off-season. While no such player is expected to hit free agency, the 2019 NFL draft is loaded with receiver talent. The notion that no receiver in this class deserves to be drafted third overall is likely correct. There does not seem to be a can’t-miss prospect at the position. There is however, an abundance of players who can develop into number one receivers.
In the event the team decides to trade back in the first round, one intriguing option would be Ole Miss receiver, D.K. Metcalf. Metcalf is a specimen at 6’4″ and has an outstanding ability to disengage from press coverage. He would stretch the field and provide a valuable redzone target for Sam Darnold.
Someone who may be available a bit later in the draft, but still possesses number one receiver upside, is NC State’s Kelvin Harmon. Harmon is only an inch shorter than Metcalf, and is a very polished all-around receiver. With excellent hip fluidity and a large catch radius, Harmon should be able to gain separation from defensive backs at the next level. Expected to be taken in the late first to early second round, the team would likely need to make a deal in order to be in a position to draft Harmon. It is certainly something to look into as landing a number one receiver at that point in the draft would be a huge hit for Maccagnan.
The Jets have taken a patient approach to their rebuild process, but the time has come to fill in some of the most egregious holes on the roster. The team has plenty of opportunities to do this through free agency and the NFL draft. Fans should be hopeful they will see solutions to the New York Jets biggest needs.